5 January 2013

Tanzania: Community Health Fund Set to Up Members

THE government has pledged to increase more people in the Community Health Fund to help reduce the number of people having to draw money from their pockets to access health services in the country.

The Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Hussein Mwinyi, was in discussion with a team of visiting Parliamentarians from the UK House of Commons who also took time to inspect DFID projects in the country.The minister said much as the fund had been introduced in the recent past, it had yet to pick up as intended.

"Currently the government is concentrating on increasing the number of people in the informal sector to get into the scheme. The aim is to encourage people especially pregnant mothers to seek medical services without being required to pay more," Dr Mwinyi said.

On obstacles to the performance of the scheme, Dr Mwinyi said there were still a number of regions yet to implement the establishment of the fund which started in 2009.

A study by the Ifakara Health Institute cited that the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare during the 2011 Technical Review meeting suggested that around 17.1 per cent of the national population were insured by the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) and other funds with NHIF leading with 9.8 per cent.

The Health Sector Strategic Plan III sets a target of 30 per cent health insurance coverage across the country by 2015. The study showed that in 2008, about 8.5 per cent was covered but this had jumped to 18.1 by 2011.

Findings of the study showed that richer groups were covered by a wide range of health insurance schemes while poorer groups were covered by the Community Health Fund (CHF) and the Tiba Kwa Kadi (TIKA) fund that began in 2009 for some urban councils.

The Member of Parliament for UK's Stafford Constituency, Mr Jeremy Letfroy, speaking in fluent Kiswahili, told the Minister how impressed the team saw in Moshi, Tanga, Bagamoyo and Dar es Salaam. He advised the government to continue working on their achievements.

Mr Letfroy commended the government particularly for its ability to establish impressive cooperation with the districts and regions. "We were very impressed to see programmes dispensing free drugs that were given to you by a private international company," he said.

He said that from what they saw it was evident that there were very strong bilateral ties between UK and Tanzania and that the cooperation needed to be maintained whilst pledging their full support to their government in the health sector. Mr Letfroy said that the team was very surprised to find a large number of doctors at the KCMC Hospital in Moshi with so many PhDs, urging the government to groom local scientists instead of relying on those from abroad.

During an experience sharing session , the Minister was queried on what the government was doing to quantify the achievements of the health sector in economic terms.Dr Mwinyi admitted that the government had been concentrating on interrupting the achievements in Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and malaria in health terms but said that the government had started quantifying in economic terms for the good of the Tanzania public and donors since everyone wants value for money.

The National Institute for Medical Research Director General, Dr Mwele Malecela, echoed the Minister's response, saying that the economic value was now being quantified for NCDs in seeing how the treatment of patients of, say elephantiasis have evaded poverty or how trachoma patients have been more frequent in their jobs because of the surgery that was conducted.

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